William Rhind.

A history of the vegetable kingdom online

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face, until the heat has united the meal into a
cake, without in the least altering its colour or



scorching it. Their method of turning a
cake of that size resembles slight of hand, for
they effect it with two pieces of split cane wMi-
out breaking it, though scarcely so thick as a
dollar, and only as yet half cemented together,
and of a substance always brittle, espedally wha
warmed. This bread is very nouiiahhg, and
will melt to a jelly in a liquid; but it is duiga^
ous if eaten in any quantity when dry, as it
swells on being moistened to many times ita ori-
ginal bulk. It will keep good for any lengthof
time if preserved in a dry place. The expressed
juice deporats, after standing for some time, a
fine white starch, which, when made into jelly,
is not to be distinguished firom that prepaied
firom the arrow root.

To whatever cause the poisonous qnality of
the juice of bitter cassava may be owing, it is so
highly volatile as to be entirely dttripated by
exposure to heat. Even a comparatiYely low
temperature suffices for correcting its deleterious
nature ; for when the root has been cut into
small pieces and exposed during some houis to
the direct rays of the son, cattle may he fed on
it ^Aih. perfect safety. If the recently extracted
juice be drunk by <»ttk or poultry, th« will
speedily become much swollen, and die in con-
vulsions; but if this same tiquid is boiled with
meat and seasoned, it forms a fiiYonrite aoup^
called by the Brazilians cassertpo^ and whidi is
found to be wholesome and nutritions. Dr
Pinckard mentions having partaken of this soup
in Demerara.

Stedman acquaints us that the Indians of
Guiana, among whom cassava forms the chief
bread, first grind the root on a rough stone^ and
then, for the purpose of separating the juice, pl^
pare a curious kind of press out of reeds, whidi
being disposed in the form of a long tnhe, and
secured at bottom, the ground pulp is introdneed,
and the press being suspended to a tree, a heavy
stone or log of wood is fixed to the bottom, the
weight of which draws the tube gradnafly to-
gether, by which means the juice ia eqnecjed
through the interstices. Occasionally the juice
is collected into a receptade, and is then used for
the poisoning of arrows. TTie bakmg process of
these inhabitants of the woods is similar to that
described above, with this only difference, that,
being without iron plates, their cooking is pe^
formed upon heated stones.

The Indians eat the simple root after haring
roasted it in hot ashes, without any snhsequent
preparation. They also ferment the juice of the
plant with the addition of molasses, and produce
an intoxicating liquid, of which they pM^
but too fireely. This knowledge they poasessed
before they were ever viated by Europeans, thw
affordmg ono out of many examples of the ahno«
universal use among nations, howevadiffocntly
situated, of some kind of stimulating and intox-



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THE PIA.



285



icating drink or another. The leaves of this
phut are also hoiled and eaten by the Indians.

Soch is the prodnctiyeness of the cassava plant,
that it has been calcnlated that an acre planted
with it will yield nourishment to more human
beings than six acres of wheat.

The ti^fioea of this country is the produce of
the casBava root. It is in every respect identical
with pure farina.

Thb Pia C^**^^ pintuOifida). This is an
heibaeeoiis plant, indigenous to the South sea
tslsnds, from the dried roots of which the natives
pr^Mie a farinaoeous substance, very much re-
sembling arrow root. The plant grows wOd,
but is also cultivated in their gardens. In pre-
psringthe farina the root is first beaten to a
pulp, and subjected to repeated washings, by
wbkh it beoomea tasteless and colourless. It is
then dried in the sun, and becomes fit for use.



lift.



CHAP. XXXI.
ouEuirjouE, niCLuniNO thb cabbot, pabsnip,

UmyBm the natural fimiily of umbeUifene, are
comprehended a number of edible roots and cu-
Unary {^anta of considerable importance, as arti-
cles of food. The same family contains, how-
ercr, plants of a very opposite nature, possessing
in the properties of acrid and virulent poisons.
The members of this family are generally reoog-
aiied by their hollow stems and deeply notched
lesfea, with a sheathing petiole. Their flowers
are naoatly white, or greenish sometimes, but
xvdy of a pinkish hue. The inflorescence is
vhat is called umbellate,
and the seed or fruit con-
flsts of two ribbed portions^
vrhidi are joined together
by a common axis, and a
ttickened discus. All are
inhabitattts of moist ditches
or damp way-sides, in the
colder parts of the earth, and
tempemte sonea. In the
tr^ics they are either ex-
tremely rare, or wholly unknown; and when
present have generally a character diflerent in
most re^Mcts fr^mi the European species. The
■mi^icity of their structure, and uniformity of
their iqypearanoe, have rendered their classifica-
turn a matter of difficulty. The culinary and
igneoltural importance of many species is fam-
iliar to aU. The parsnip and carrot form a large
part of the winter store of the inhabitants of
Europe, as the arraehaehei do of those of South
America; and the j^roit^of Thibet is supposed




P. 72.



to be the most important and productive of any
in the whole world as a forage plant.

The medicinal properties of some species of this
fiunily, of which we shall treat afterwards, are
of various and powerful natures. While the
seeds of some are aromatic and highly stimulat-
ing, the firesh roots of others are strongly nar-
cotic and sedative. This has been supposed to
arise from the difierence in the state of the sap
in difierent parts of the plant; and it has been
thought that the narcotic principle is only to be
found in the ascending sap; while the aromatic
stimulating properties are found in the juices
which are fdlly elaborated and matured. It is
a singular fact that cultivation destroys the
dangerous properties of some species. The com-
mon celery is a familiar example of this; but the
most remarkable, a species of (Enanthe, a most
poisonous kind, when wild, is cultivated about
Angers for the sake of its roots, which are there
called jcwmeUes; and about Samur, where they
are known by the name of meehons. The
roots of some umbeUifene contain a large pro-
portion of sugar; those of the carrot when dried,
contain more than an eighth, those of the pars-
nip an eighth exactly; and those of the chervil
about eight per cent. The umbeUifene are a num-
erous famUy, and have been divided into nine
tribes. They aU belong to the Linnsan class
and order PerUandria digynia. We shaU in the
mean time, describe those species which are
used as food.

Eabth Nut, (lunium MboeaHanum.) This
is a plant very common on elevated and hiUy grass
pastures; hence its name of ^tmttim, the Greek
word for a hiU. It has a few deeply pinnated
root leaves, and a slender stem with a white
cluster of flowers at the top. The tuber is found
about four or six inches below the surface, at the
termination of a long slender root. It b about
the size of a chestnut, of an irregular figure, and
covered with a brown cuticle. It is of a
sweetish farinaceous nature, resembling in taste
the common chestnut; being more amylaceous
on being subjected to heat. Swine are very fond
of them, and fatten rapidly where they are pro-
cured in abundance.

We do not know what effect cultivation might
have in increasing the size and edible quaUtiee
of this root, or whether any attempts have been
made to raise them artificiaUy. It is not im-
probable, however, but that frequent transplant-
ing and a genial soil, might render them worthy
the attention of man, as an article of food.

The Cabbot, (daiMsua earota.) The wUd car-
rot is indigenous to Britain, and is found grow-
ing in waste plains and by the way-sides. Its
root is small, hard, and fibrous, and of a white
colour; the leaves and inflorescence are similar to
the cultivated species. It is a matter of some
doubt whether the garden carrot has been do-



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286



HISTORY OF THE VEGETABLE KINGDOM.



rived originally from the wild species. Seyeral
horticulturists have attempted to cultivate the
wild root, but without success. The probability
is, therefore, that the garden carrot is either a
distinct species, or a variety obtained in a wanner
climate than that of Britain from a wild stock.

This root, according to the commentators,
would appear to have been known to, and culti-
vated by the Greeks under the name of staple-
linos; at all events, the description of Dioscor-
ides seems to apply pretty accurately to the
modem carrot. He describes it as a plant grow-
ing wild, but also cultivated for the purpose of
an esculent root. The carrot also appears to
have been a cultivated vegetable among various
nations, from the time of the Greeks downwards.

The garden, or cultivated carrot, was first in-
troduced into England by the Flemings, during
the reign of Q,ueen Elizabeth. Finding the soil
about Sandwich in Kent very &vourable for the
culture of the carrot, the emigrants soon engaged
in its production on that spot. The English,
whose knowledge of horticulture was at that
time extremely circumscribed, were in this case
well pleased to add another edible vegetable to
the scanty list which were then under general
cultivation. The carrot, therefore, unlike the
turnip, grew quickly into esteem, and being
made an object of careful culture, was very
shortly naturalized throughout the ieland. Par-
kinson, the celebrated botanist to James the
First, mentions that in his time the ladies adorned
their head-dresses with carrot-leaves, the light
feathery verdure of which caused them to be no
contemptible substitute for the plumage of birds.
Although the taste of the fur sex in the present
day has discarded this simple and perishable or-
nament, the leaves of the carrot are even now
sometimes used as house decorations. If in the
winter a section be cut frt>m the end or thick
part of the root, and this be placed in a shallow
vessel containing water, young and delicate leaves
are developed, forming a '* radiated tuft," the
graceful and verdant i^pearance of which make
it a pleasing ornament for the mantel-piece in
that season when any semblance of vegetation is
a welcome relief to the eye.

The carrot is a biennial plant, the first year
develops the root and stem, and the second year
the flowers appear in the form of a dose umbel,
in June and July, and are succeeded by the seeds,
which are covei^ with a rough coat of hairs or
bristles. There are not less than ten varieties
enumerated of the cairot, characterised by size,
shape, and the earliness or lateness of their
growth. The early carrots are short, and of a
paler colour; the late are laiger, longer, and of
a deeper red hue.

The red or large field carrot attains to a con-
siderable growth ; it is chiefly cultivated in fields as
food for cattle, and informer's gardens as a material



for colouring butter. The orange carrot, thongb
not so productive, is generally the main crop in
garden culture; the flavour of this is more ddi-
cate, and therefore it is in higher estimation as i
culinary vegetable. There are, likewise, wbite,
yellow, and purple Tarieties; these are not, how-
ever, in common cultivation. The hom-canot
has a shorter and smaller root than the long Tar-
ieties; it is, therefore, a good crop for a afaaDow
soil, and in such a situation is prefnaUe to the
larger kind; it has likewise the advantage of
coming to maturity in a shorter period than the
long, and b consequently found well adapted for
the early and late crops.

When a carrot is cut transversely, it is forad
to consist of two parts of different colour and
texture. These are the bark and the wood; the
bark is of the darkest colour, and of the most
pulpy consistence, and it is also the sweetest to
the taste; the heart or wood, especially when the
root has attained its full size, is more fihrons or
stringy, and, if it be separated, it is bristled over
with hard points or fibres that extend to Ae
rootlets outside. Almost the whole crown of
the root, or the part which sends up the leares,
is connected with the wood, and only the epi-
dermis of the leaves and stem with the external
portions of the root.

The skin or bark is found to be more nntri-
tious than the central part, and consequently
the value of the carrot as an esculent will depend
on the relative proportion of these two parts of
the root The object of the skilful cultivator
is, therefore, to obtain the root with the smallest
possible proportionate quantity of wood. In
endeavouring to secure this result, much mnst
of course depend upon the nature of the plants
from which the seeds are obtained ; but ad^>ta-
tion of soil is likewise a very important consid-
eration.

The carrot is most successfully cultivated in
a light mellow soil mixed with sand: the ground
should be well dug to some depth, and made ex-
tremely friable and porous, that the roots may
meet with no obstruction in running down, which
would cause them to grow forked, and to shoot
out lateral branches. This accident will h^pen,
especially when the ground has been too highly
manured previously to the seed being sown. It
may perhaps be taken as a general rule that
strong soils are not well adapted for any plant*
which form esculent roots deep under the snr-
fece, as the mechanical redstance which is thereby
opposed to the swelling of the bulb forces muA
of the strength of the plant up into leaves; and
in the carrot especially, that part of the iwt
which is the most valuable is diminished in the
greatest proportion.

The best mode of cultivating these roots has
been made by many agriculturists a subject of
inquiry. So early as the year 1765, this branch



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THE CARROT.



287



of huabandiy engaged the attention of the So-
ciety finr the Encouragement of Arts, &c.; and,
in amaeqnence, an account of the culture of
caiTotfl^ and the uses to which they may he ap-
plied, was published by Robert Biling, a &nner
of Koifblk, in whose work much useful matter
on the subject is obtained.

The seeds of carrots are surrounded by num-
enniB £oiked hairs, by which they adhere to each
other so taiaciously, that there is some difficulty
in cansing their separation; this is performed
either by rubbing them through the hands, or
by passing them through a fine chaflP-seiTe; but
the best and most effectual method, as recom-
miepdcd by an intelligent cultivator, is to mix
them with fine sand in the proportion of one
boahd to ereiy four or five pounds of seeds; this
mixture is then laid in heaps, being occasionally
watned and turned during two or three weeks
prerious to sowing. The above preliminary
piooeas not only occasions the more equal diffu-
sion of the seeds, but likewise promotes their
quicker gemination; besides this, when they are
town akme their extreme levity causes great in-
convenioieey and prevents this operation from
bdngsuooeasfnlly performed except in the calmest
weather. The ground being duly manured, and
rednoed to the required degree of fineness, the
seed mixed with the sand is sown about the
middle of March or b^^inning of April: the seeds
thus prepared germinate and send up young
plants before the appearance of the annual weeds,
which are always abundant in a soil so worked
md manured. In about five or six weeks the
plants are in a fit state for hoeing, and that oper-
ation two or three times repeat^, according to
tlie increase of the weeds, is all the after-culture
vhich is requisite.

From this manner of sowing, more than eight
kondred bushels per acre of carrots of very large
powth have be^ obtained. According to Mr
Arthur Young, the produce of these roots on in-
different land is about two hundred bushels, and
on a more congenial soil six hundred and forty
bodiels per acre. The garden culture of carrots
a somewhat different. In that case they are
fawn in a succession of crops from the latter end
«f February to the beginning of August, and
the plants when hoed are thinned at regular dis-
tooes, of from five to eight inches apart, the
Fttticalar interval being regulated by the size
^ the variety under cultivation, and by the
P^od of their growth at which they are to be
<lrawn.

In order to preserve carrots for winter use,
tHey are dug up in the beginning of November,
**=id placed in a dry place in sand, by which
"^cens they may be kept without spoiling until
■^awi er April of the ensuing year.

To obtain carrot seed, some roots which have
***^ taken up in November are replanted in



February about two feet apart, and with the
crown or head a few inches below the surface.
Leaves and flower-stalks will spring up from
these, and seeds will be produced which ripen
in autumn. A considerable quantity of carrot
seed is raised atWeathersfield in Essex, but this
is insufficient for a home supply, and it is said
much is imported from Holland into this country.
It would appear that the production of carrot
seed may occasionally be made a source of con-
siderable profit to the cultivator. We find it
recorded that, in the latter half of the last cen-
tury, a fiurmer in Essex obtained from an acre of
land sown with carrots ten cwt. of seed, which
he sold in London for ^10 per cwt. This is a very
rare case. If it were general the price would
soon be reduced.

The siae of carrots differs, of course, very
much according to soil, culture, and variety.
Some have been known to measure two feet in
length, and from twelve to fourteen inches in
circumference at the thickest part. In the
autumn of 1826 several were taken up in the
neighbourhood of Lancaster, having an average
weight of four pounds each; these were fine firm
roots, and in every respect good for the table.

Carrots are very liable to the attacks of grubs
and insects. These animals, especially some
species of ring- worms, (ItdusJ eat into the root,
where they lie concealed, and thus cause what is
commonly called canker. The upper part of
the root is also attacked by the grub of a kind
of fly; under these attacks the root and whole
plant withers. The best remedy is late sowing,
to avoid the period at which these insects are
evolved from the eggs.

The carrot is extensively used in cookery,
entering into soups and stews, as well as forming
a vegetable dish. Besides their use as human
food, carrots are in some places grown largely
for the consumption of stock, especially for
horses. It is affirmed that cattle which have
once tasted these, usually prefer them so much
to turnips, as with difficulty to be made to return
to the latter. The milk of cows fed on carrots
never acquires any unpleasant flavour, while at
the same time the quantity produced is increased.
Calves thrive admirably,and bullocks are quickly
&ttened on this food. Carrots are equally bene-
ficial as nourishment for sheep, and are devoured
with avidity by swine. In the short space of
ten days a lean hog was fattened by these roots,
having consumed during that period 196 pounds.
Its fikt proved very fine, white, and firm, and
did not waste in the dressing. Horses receiving
no other sustenance perform their work as usual
without any diminution of their sleekness. The
efficacy of these roots in preserving and restor-
ing the wind of horses had, it is said, been par-
tially known in Suffolk, where carrots were ad-
ministered as a secret specific for the complaint,



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288



HISTORY OF THE VEGETABLE KINGDOM.



long previoaaly to their being commonly ap-
plied as food for horses. These roots may also
with advantage be given to poultry. In severe
winters they have been found of great utility in
the preservation of deer; and they have been also
strongly recommended as wholesome and cheap
nourishment for dogs. Although, perhaps, the
virtues and nutritive qualities of Uie carrot may
be somewhat over-rated by writers who have
evidently a strong bias in its fftvour, it is more
than probable that carrots are a more wholesome
food than either cabbages or turnips, as they are
so strongly opposed to putre£Bu;tion, as to be occa-
sionally used, on account of this property, in
certain surgical applications. Various opinions
exist among agriculturists as to the relative ad-
vantages arising from the culture of the carrot
or the turnip as food for cattle. The latter root
may perhaps be more productive, and succeed
better in a variety of soils, but the positive
amount of nourishment it contains would seem
to be much less than that of the carrot. This
assertion is advanced on the testimony of Mr
Biling, who obtained from twenty and a half
acres of land, rarying in soil and degree of pre-
paration, five hundred and ten loads of carrots.
Experience led him to conclude that these were
equal in use and effect to one thousand loads of
turnips, and to three hundred loads of hay. At
ParHngton in Yorkshire, the stock of a ferm,
consisting of twenty working-horses, four bul-
locks, and six milch cows, were fed from the end
of September to the beginning of May on the
carrots produced from three acres of land. The
animals, during the whole of that period, lived
on these roots with the addition of only a very
small quantity of hay, and thirty hogs were
fattened on the refrise left by the cattle.

The greater part of the alimentar}*^ portion of
the carrot consists, according to Sir Humphrey
Davy's analysis, of saccharine matter, which
may in a considerable degree accoimt for its an-
tiseptic qualities. The quantity of nutritive
matter is nearly ten per cent, in the whole weight
of carrot, being 98 parts in 1000, and of these three
are starch or mucilage, and the remaining ninety-
five saccharine matter. The quantity of ready
formed saccharine matter in carrots is much
greater than in any of the cerealia^ being 2^ per
cent, more than in barley, and about six times
more than the quantity contidned in potatoes.
It is presumed, therefore, that carrots are much
better adapted than the latter for the distillery.
Dr Hunter, in the Greoigical Essays, details ex-
periments made to prepare frt>m carrots a beverage
resembling beer, and subsequently a spirituous
liquor; the former proved unsucc^sfal; but the
result of the latter was, according to the Doc-
tor's opinion, very encouraging. " From a gross
cAlculation," he concludes, ''I am induced to
tliink that a good acre of carrots manu&ctured



in this manner will leave a profit of forty pounds,
after deducting the landlord's rent, the cost of
cultivation, distillation, and other incidental ex-
penses. In this calculation I presume that the
spirit is worth six shillings per gallon, and not
excised." This is perhaps rather an exagger-
ated statement: it has, however, been found by
other experiments that eighteen tons, the pro-
duce of one acre, will yield one hundied galloos
of proof spirit, a hunger product than that ob-
tained from an acre of barley; while the refuse
supplies a greater quantity of food for hogs.

Attempts have likewise been made to prepare
sugar from carrots, but without succesB; a thick
syrupy matter which refuses to crystallize can
alone be obtained.

The Pabsnip, (pastinaca sattva.) This is
also a British plant, and grows wild in calcare-
ous soils by road sides. The leaves are hroader
and less divided than those of the carrot; in the
wild kind they are hairy, and dark green; in the
cultivated parsnip smooth, and of a light yel-
lowish green. The flowers have a yellowish
tinge. The roots of the wild parsnip are smaller,
tougher, and have less of the peculiar taste
than the cultivated kind. PagUnacOy fiom fo*-
^ttf, nourishment, is one of the names given by the
Romans to the daucm of the Greeks.

The parsnip has long been cultivated in En-
glish gardens. There are a great many varieties
of this root, one only of which is cultivated in
Britain. In France, as well as in Guernsey and
Jersey, where the soil is peculiarly adapted to
this cultivation, three varieties are distinguidied
by the names of coquainey lubonaisey and wan.
The first runs very long, to the depth of three,
and even four feet in the ground, and attaining to
from three to four inches in diameter; while its
leaves grow proportionally high, and proceed
from the whole crown of the root. The lidxmi^
is shorter, but considerably thicker, and of an
equally good quality; the leaves of this variety
are small and short, and proc^ only from the
centre of the crown. The siam has not so huge



Online LibraryWilliam RhindA history of the vegetable kingdom → online text (page 66 of 163)